When you’re injured on the job, workers compensation kicks in to help you pay your bills while you concentrate on healing. However, workers comp will not provide 100% of your previous wage, so you may find yourself wondering whether you can work while on workers compensation to make up the difference.
The answer to this question isn’t a simple yes or no. In reality, it’s a firm “maybe”. Keep reading to learn more about when it may be safe to keep working while on workers comp and when you should avoid it. Of course, should you still have any questions about your particular situation, be sure to consult a workers compensation attorney who can review your unique circumstances.
Obey Doctor’s Orders
When deciding whether you should try to go back to work when collecting workers compensation benefits, the first thing you should reference is your doctor’s orders. As your doctor has examined you and determined the extent of your injury, they are best qualified to say whether or not you can work during your recovery period.
If your doctor says that you cannot work, you must respect that decision. If you’re caught continuing to work after a no-work order, you may be charged with workers compensation fraud, which is punishable by loss of your benefits, additional fines, and possibly even jail time.
On the other hand, if your doctor says that you can work with limitations, you may seek employment that meets those restrictions. Depending on your job, your employer may be able to accommodate your limitations. For example, if you are a construction worker and your doctor says that you can’t lift more than 10 lbs at a time, your boss may be able to find a less strenuous job that you can perform.
In the event that your employer can’t find a job for you to do, you cannot go back to that place of employment until your doctor lifts your medical restrictions. However, you are free to seek other employment that works with your restrictions. Using the construction job again as an example, if you can find a desk job that doesn’t require heavy lifting, you can take on that job instead.
Does Working Affect My Benefits?
An important thing to remember when seeking alternative employment while collecting workers compensation benefits is that you must report all additional income. In most cases, your workers comp payments will be reduced in alignment with the new wages that you’re bringing in. If you make as much or more at your new job as you did at your previous job, you may lose workers compensation benefits completely.
To make sure you understand the ramifications of taking on new work while on workers compensation, it’s vital that you consult with a lawyer who has expertise in this area.
What If I Already Had a Second Job?
If you already had a second job when you sustained your workplace injury, you may be able to continue working it. However, it all goes back to what your doctor says. If you are forbidden from working due to the extent of your injury, you cannot go back to your second job either. In this case, your workers compensation benefits will extend to cover loss of wages from this second job.
If your second job isn’t more demanding than your medical restrictions, you can continue to work. But remember that the wages that you earn at your second job will affect your workers compensation benefits. In most cases, they’ll reduce the amount that you receive in temporary disability benefits. If you take on more work, to the point that you’re earning as much as you did at your previous job, your workers comp payments may be canceled altogether.
Can I Get Away with Working Anyway?
There is the possibility that you can continue working despite the doctor’s orders. However, doing so is generally not worth the possible punishment should you be caught. And there are lots of ways you might be caught.
One common way that workers are caught committing workers compensation fraud is through anonymous tips. Someone that you know or work with may know that you are not supposed to be working and secretly report you.
You may get busted through surveillance video or video posted on social media.
Beyond the legal ramifications of working when you shouldn’t be, you should also consider your health. If your doctor says that you cannot work or that you can work with certain limitations, you should respect that diagnosis. Pushing yourself when you should be recuperating could extend your healing time or cause your injury to get worse.
Is It Safe to Work “Under the Table”?
When you’re struggling to pay bills, you may look for unconventional ways to make money. One method you might be considering is payment “under the table”; that is, working a job that isn’t officially recorded. When you take on a job with these terms, your employer will pay you in cash, generally to avoid paying their share of employment taxes.
While such a job may be tempting, you must resist the urge to take it on. For starters, you won’t be covered by any traditional workplace protections, including workers compensation should you injure yourself at your new job. Beyond that, earning money and then not reporting it is grounds for a workers compensation fraud case.
Suffering an injury at work can have far-reaching ramifications. In addition to the time and effort that it takes to get better, you might find yourself struggling financially due to the loss of full income. In some cases, you may be fine financially, but find yourself bored without your work to fill your days.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to go back to work while collecting workers compensation benefits, it’s important that you understand what you are legally allowed to do. Should you have any questions about your diagnosis or work limitations, you should consult with a workers compensation lawyer who’s navigated these waters before.